SciELO - Scientific Electronic Library Online

vol.5 author indexsubject indexarticles search
Home Pagealphabetic serial listing  

Services on Demand



Related links

  • On index processCited by Google
  • On index processSimilars in Google


African Natural History

On-line version ISSN 2305-7963
Print version ISSN 1816-8396

Afr. nat. history (Online) vol.5  Cape Town Jan. 2009


Sneaky African fig wasps that oviposit through holes drilled by other species



Stephen G. ComptonI; Simon van NoortII; Michael McLeishIII; Mark DeebleIV; Victoria StoneV

IFaculty of Biological Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, U.K. E-mail:
IINatural History Collections Department, Iziko South African Museum, P.O. Box 61, Cape Town, 8000 South Africa, and Department of Zoology, University of Cape Town, Private Bag, Rondebosch, 7701 E-mail:
IIISouth African National Biodiversity Institute, Kirstenbosch, Cape Town, South Africa. E-mail:
IVOld Coastguards, Gurnards Head, Zennor, Cornwall, TR26 3DE, U.K
VOld Coastguards, Gurnards Head, Zennor, Cornwall, TR26 3DE, U.K





Watshamiella Wiebes species (Hymenoptera: Chalcidoidea: Pteromalidae: Sycoryctinae) were observed to engage, monitor and subsequently use oviposition holes made by other parasitoid fig wasp genera (Apocrypta Coquerel and Sycoryctes Mayr) to oviposit into host figs (Moraceae, Ficus) through the fig wall. They may be inquilines, klepto-parasitoids, or hyper-parasitoids; however, further biological investigations of larval diet are required to establish their life history strategy. Watshamiella species are morphologically robust, with enlarged fore femora and tibia, and aggressively interact with other fig wasps and ants. Our observations contribute towards unravelling the complex suite of behavioural adaptations and interactions involved in the community ecology of the obligate mutualism that exists between fig wasps and their host figs.

Keywords: behaviour, biology, inquiline, parasitoid, ecology, Ficus, fig wasp, Sycoryctinae.


“Full text available only in PDF format”



Thanks to Jean-Yves Rasplus (INRA) for providing valuable comments on the manuscript. The Ugandan Wildlife Authority and Ugandan Council for Science and Technology provided permission to S.v.N. and M.M. to conduct research in Kibale National Park. This material is partly based upon work supported by the South African National Research Foundation grant GUN 61497 to S.v.N.



ABDURAHIMAN, U.C. & JOSEPH, K.J. 1980. Observationsonthe oviposition behaviour in Apocrypta bakeri Joseph (Torymidae: Hymenoptera). Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 76: 219-223.         [ Links ]

BERG, C.C. & WIEBES, J.T. 1992. African fig trees and fig wasps. Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen, Amsterdam, 1-298 pp.         [ Links ]

BOUCEK, Z., 1988. Australian Chalcidoidea (Hymenoptera): A Biosystematic Revision ofGenera ofFourteen Families, with a Reclassification of Species. 832 pp. Wallingford: CAB International.         [ Links ]

BOUCEK Z., WATSHAM, A. & WIEBES, J.T. 1981. The fig wasp fauna of the receptacles of Ficus thonningii (Hymenoptera, Chalcidoidea). Tijdschrift voor Entomologie 124: 149-233        [ Links ]

BURROWS, J. & BURROWS, S. 2003. Figs of Southern and South-central Africa. 379 pp. Hatfield: Umdaus Press.         [ Links ]

COUTURIER, A. 1949. Observations sur Rhyssa approximator F. cleptoparasite de Rh. persuasoria L. Bulletin de la Société Entomologique de France 54: 62-63.         [ Links ]

COMPTON, S.G. 1993. An association between epichrysomallines and eurytomids (Hymenoptera: Chalcidoidea) in southern African fig wasp communities. African Entomology 1: 123-125.         [ Links ]

COMPTON, S.G. & HAWKINS, B.A. 1992. Determinantsof species richness in southern African fig wasp assemblages. Oecologia 91: 68-74.         [ Links ]

COMPTON, S.G. & ROBERTSON, H.G. 1988. Complex interactions between mutualisms: ants tending homopterans protect fig seeds and pollinators. Ecology 69: 1302-1305.         [ Links ]

COMPTON, S.G. & VAN NOORT, S. 1992. Southern African fig wasps (Hymenoptera: Chalcidoidea): resource utilization and host relationships. Proceedings of the Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen 95: 423-35.         [ Links ]

GODFRAY, H.C.J. 1988. Virginity in haplodiploid populations: a study on fig wasps. Ecological Entomology 13: 283-291.         [ Links ]

JANZEN, D.H. 1979. How to be a fig. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 10: 13-51.         [ Links ]

KERDELHUÉ, C. & RASPLUS, J.Y. 1996. Non-pollinating afrotropical fig wasps affect the fig-pollinator mutualism in Ficus within the subgenus Sycomorus. Oikos 75: 3-14.         [ Links ]

QUICKE, D.L.J. 1997. Parasitic Wasps. 470 pp. London: Chapman and Hall.         [ Links ]

RASPLUS, J.Y., KERDELHUÉ, C., LE CLAINCHE, I. & MONDOR, G. 1998. Molecular phylogeny of fig wasps (Hymenoptera). Agaonidae are not monophyletic. Compte Rendu de l'Académie des Sciences de Paris 321: 517-527.         [ Links ]

RASPLUS, J.Y., HARRY, M., PERRIN, H., CHASSAGNARD, M.T. & LACHAISE, D. 2003. Les Ficus (Moraceae) et l'entomofaune des figues (Hym. Agaonidae; Pteromalidae, Torymidae, Eurytomidae; Dipt. Drosophilidae; Col. Curculionidae) du Mont Nimba en Guinée. Mémoires du Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle 190: 107-182.         [ Links ]

TZENG, H.Y., TSENG, L.J., OU, C.H., LU, K.C., LU, F.Y. & CHOU, L.S. 2008. Confirmation of the parasitoid feeding habit in Sycoscapter, and their impact on pollinator abundance in Ficus formosana. Symbiosis 45: 129-134.         [ Links ]

VAN NOORT, S. & RASPLUS, J.Y. 2004-2009. Figs and fig wasps. Online at: http//        [ Links ]

WANG, R.W. & ZHENG, Q. 2008. Structure of a fig wasp community: temporal segregation ofoviposition and larval diets. Symbiosis 45: 113-116.         [ Links ]

WEIBLEN, G.D. 2002. How to be a fig wasp. Annual Review of Entomology 47: 299-330.         [ Links ]

WIEBES, J.T. 1979. Co-evolution of figs and their insect pollinators. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 10: 1-12.         [ Links ]



Received 3 July 2009
Accepted 25 August 2009



Department of Botany & Zoology
Natuurwetenskappe Building
University of Stellenbosch, Matieland
7602 South Africa

Creative Commons License All the contents of this journal, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License